New Research: Good Gov’t Websites Lead to Trust in Gov

The hot new thing in government is open government, transparency, collaboration, participation . . . watch how often you see those words in memos and news conferences and government tweets.

At ForeSee Results, we study how effectively government websites (and private sector sites) are satisfying citizens and how that satisfaction leads to return visits, loyalty, recommendations, etc. We’ve seen over the years that online citizen satisfaction plays a huge role in government efficiency and effectiveness. So we launched a new research study to test out the relationship between online satisfaction, online transparency, collaboration, participation, and even trust in government, Turns out there is a huge relationship.

Given the highly public role that the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches play in citizens’ overall trust in government, you might think federal websites play a very small role. But the research (done using the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, which is used across government as a metric, both online and offline) online customer satisfaction directly impacts citizens trust in government. Not only that, online satisfaction impacts their likelihood to participate and collaborate with an agency in the future. Highly satisfied federal website visitors are:

• 49% more likely to trust the agency or department overall;
• 54% more likely to participate in communication with the agency online or offline in the future;
• 73% more likely to collaborate with the agency online in the future using interactive features such as wikis or blogs;
• 54% more likely to return to the site;
• 78% more likely to recommend the site;
• 77% more likely to use the site as a primary resource for interaction with the agency overall.

This strikes me as huge. Just by improving the website, you can impact trust, collaboration, and even cost-saving behaviors like using the site as a primary resource.

So how do you increase satisfaction? It’s going to differ from site to site, depending both on existing strengths and weaknesses and on the site’s mission. But in aggregate, we found that the top priorities are online transparency and online search. That means that focusing on those two things will have the greatest impact on online satisfaction.

So in short, online transparency leads to online satisfaction. Online satisfaction leads to trust, collaboration, participation, cost savings, efficiency, effectiveness, and a chicken in every pot.

We’re really excited about the potential of this research. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Check out the research for more information, and we’d love to see you at our annual conference: Digital Citizen (a free event in DC on October 8 sponsored by GovLoop), where we’ll be presenting the next round of findings. (Read more about Digital Citizen on Gov Loop and register here.

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